Chicken with Mustard Seed and Coconut Milk (Plus what the heck we’ve been doing for the past six months)

When we last blogged in August, our Airbnb cottage had been open for about two weeks and we had started doing pop-up dinners for guests at The Squire Tarbox Inn on nearby Westport Island. Since then, the Airbnb has been successful beyond our wildest expectations. In the six months since August 4, we have had 81 groups of guests stay a total of 132 nights in our cottage. This has definitely kept us hopping cleaning between guests, making homemade granola and yogurt for their breakfasts, and taking out hot, freshly baked scones to our guests each morning. On the pop-up front, we did at least two dinners a month in the summer and early fall for guests staying at the Tarbox, for between 6 and 24 people, catered a magazine launch and a couple of wedding rehearsal dinners for much larger groups, and got our state bartending certifications and bartended for a couple of weddings. This Winter, we’re cooking for weekly Monday soup nights at the Tarbox, catering to locals who live on the Island and would otherwise have to drive 30 minutes to eat out or even go to a grocery store. This is proving to be a great success, with sell out crowds each week so far for our soups, homemade breads and desserts. Oh, and we both worked part time for the 2020 Census doing map and address updating during the summer and early fall, too. So, I’m sad to admit that blogging and our cookbook project fell by the wayside for a while.

Here we are in the middle of winter and things are somewhat less busy (only 15 nights booked in the cottage this month),  so Kate pulled out Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries to get us back on track with book number 21 in our cook-through project. (We’re deferring Jane and Michael Stern’s Square Meals, which was supposed to have been next, because we couldn’t find a recipe in the the book that we really wanted to cook. We struggled with this for quite a while, but Square Meals just seems to be one of those cookbooks meant more to be read and amused by than cooked out of. At least for us.) If you’re not familiar with Nigel Slater, you should be. Kate discovered him last year and quickly fell in love with his writing, not to mention his recipes. Nigel has a special gift for writing about food in a very personal way, bringing the reader into his kitchen, along on a trip to the market, or on a walk in the countryside around his home, that stirs the imagination and the tastebuds. And he does it all in the confines of writing a recipe. The Kitchen Diaries is literally that, Nigel’s food diary for a year, recording what was in season at the market, the recipes that he was inspired to cook, and his invariably fascinating musings on food.

Although it’s in Nigel’s entry for April 1, Chicken with mustard seeds and coconut milk was just the ticket for dinner on a cold winter night. Particularly since we had an open can of coconut milk in the fridge, chicken in the freezer, and everything else, except out of season hot house tomatoes, in the pantry. The recipe called for a whole chicken cut into parts, but, since it was just the two of us, I defrosted a package of two Maine-ly Poultry leg and thigh quarters in lieu of the whole chicken. Once defrosted, I browned the chicken in canola oil and set it aside while I prepped the ingredients for the sauce. Into the mortar went mustard seeds, cumin, and coriander seeds (the latter two from Burlap and Barrel) to be lightly crushed with the pestle. The crushed spices when into the pan the chicken had been browned in to infuse the fat in the pan with their goodness. Following the spices into the pan went a chopped jalapeño (in place of the red chilis called for in the recipe), a knob of ginger, peeled and grated, three chopped onions, two cloves of chopped garlic, ground turmeric (again from Burlap and Barrel), a pound of chopped tomatoes, and a handful of curry leaves (from the precious stash sent to us by our dear friend Noel). After a brief simmer, in went the coconut milk and the chicken quarters to simmer, partially covered, until the chicken was done.

To accompany the chicken, I steamed some brown basmati rice and roasted quartered carrots and wedges of cabbage sprayed with canola oil and sprinkled with salt, ground cumin, and Kashmiri chili powder (from Gryffon Ridge Spice Merchants). The chicken came out tender and the unctuous sauce was redolent of the spices, coconut, and curry leaves and full of tender onions. Definitely another keeper recipe from Nigel Slater.

Since I only cooked about half of the chicken called for, we had a lot of the curry sauce left over and it made its very happy way into this morning’s breakfast reheated over leftover rice and topped with a runny fried egg. Oh, leftovers!

Up next: More Nigel Slater – The Christmas Chronicles.